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November 04th 2016 print

Tony Thomas

The HRC Welshes on My Rights

As someone who identifies as a leak-garlanded son of Wales, the Australian newspaper's Leak-garlanded editorial page caused me so much distress that only an apology (and a lavish financial settlement) will assuage my hurt feelings. Alas, I'm out of luck

hrcA Welsh curse upon you, Bill Leak, cartoonist of The Australian, you drewgi siffilitig (in the Queen’s English, you syphilitic stink-dog). As a dark-skinned whitish person identifying as Welsh, I  lodged a race-hatred complaint to the Human Rights Commission on September 6 about your cartoon showing an obviously Welsh mother and father neglecting their child, thus offending, insulting, humiliating and intimidating me as a member of the Welsh race. [i]

Your  race-hate cartoon showed parents who have dumped their squalling toddler in 24/7 child care while they twiddle with their smartphones and ipads . The child-care staffer says the parents should talk to their son about personal responsibility, and the Welsh father replies, “Yeah, righto. What’s his name then?”

Bill Leak has form with all this stuff, especially with his earlier cartoon about an Aboriginal copper rebuking an Aboriginal lout about his errant son. The lout says, “Yeah, Righto, what’s his name then?” I hope Melissa Dinnison’s complaint to the HRC, solicited by Race Discrimination Commissioner Tim Soutphommasane, fares better than mine.

My shtick was that I had been grossly defamed as a white Welsh father by Leak’s imputation that I neglect my children. “I have been a model parent to my children,” I wrote to the HRC, not very truthfully. “I want right of reply in The Australian, an apology from Leak and compensation for offence, hurt, vilification and humiliation.”

leak welsh

I have in mind a payment from Leak and The Australian similar to Cindy Prior’s sought-after $250,000 from those QUT students she kicked out of the Indigenes-only Oodgeroo computer room. I feel an urge to go on stress leave, but I retired 15 years ago.

Today I got a letter  back from the HRC saying they had not “formed a concluded view”. But’ as in Mordy Bromberg’s ruling in the Andrew Bolt case,  I could tell by  the letter’s tone, and reading between the lines, that  the HRC felt my complaint was dim gwerth rhech dafad (not worth a sheep’s fart) and as far as they were concerned, I could twll dy din (bugger off) unless I can make my complaint more persuasively.

The HRC letter runs to six single-spaced pages, and must have taken the HRC many hours of consultation and investigation, as befits a make-work organisation on a $24-million budget.

According to the HRC, I have until November 11 to embellish my complaint. On this significant Armistice Day,  President Gillian Triggs’ delegate will decide whether to terminate my hostilities. I can then  move to the federal courts for relief of my hurt Welsh feelings.

I must say that during these proceedings, I have got along fine by phone and email with  my opposite number in the HRC, Investigator/Conciliator Natalie Greenfield,  who has been helpful, courteous and prompt. Madam Triggs, please note this for Natalie’s next performance review.

Natalie explained that the Racial Discrimination Act “seeks  to strike a balance between the right to live free from racial hatred and the right to communicate freely – ‘freedom of speech’.” [So the HRC has certainly  come across the ‘freedom of speech’ idea somewhere or other].

Natalie’s first quandary was whether the Leak cartoon was “done because of your race, colour or national or ethnic origin or the race, colour or national or ethnic origin of some or all of the people in the same group as you.”

She quoted legal precedents including a spat among Orthodox Jews and someone cranky with the Toowoomba Sports Ground. Her key precedent was a finding in McLeod v Power, Brown FM, that the term ‘white’ did not itself encompass a specific race or national or ethnic group, being too wide a term, and that “claims under s18C made on this basis may be ‘drawing a long bow’.”As a result my Welsh-based complaint was not persuasive.

Natalie: “While the people in the cartoon have fair skin, the race, national or ethnic origin of the people drawn in the cartoon is not at all clear.  The cartoon appears to depict parents who are at a long day care centre and seem to be more concerned with the electronic devices they are holding than interacting with their child who appears upset.” [He certainly does, he’s any parent’s nightmare].

But there wasn’t really a causal connection from the cartoon to my Welsh race “or that of other white people of Welsh national or ethnic origin.”

From this letter I also found out lots of curious things. For example, my one-time employer The West Australian got away with publishing a cartoon in 1997 showing the head of long-deceased Aboriginal warrior Yagan in a cardboard box “expressing a desire to go back to England”.

This talking-head exercise, as they say on TV, was a comment on an unseemly spat among Perth’s Nyungar about who of them deserved a taxpayer-funded trip to the Old Dart to reclaim Yagan’s head; who of them was an authentic Aborigine; and which leader had frivolously frightened a child who was skeptical about the UK trip by using the menace of a dreamtime serpent.

Getting back to the letter, Natalie then went into whether the cartoon involved offending, insulting etc. Actually, she said, the issue wasn’t whether I’d been personally offended, insulted etc. That was irrelevant. The objective issue was “rather, whether the acts complained of were reasonably likely to have that effect on a person of that race, color or national or ethnic origin”.

Natalie didn’t write the law, so don’t blame her for it. But what a stupid law to create such a rubbery yardstick about hypothetical group racial reaction to a cartoon. It’s just a lot of Cachu hwch, or pig’s poo.

Tony Thomas’s book of 40 Quadrant essays, That’s Debatable – 60 Years in Print, is available here

 

 

 

 



[i] I also identify as Cornish, but Welsh will do for now.

Comments [12]

  1. Rob Brighton says:

    What a pity Mr Leak did not dress those in his offending cartoon in a national costume that would clearly identify them as both lacking in melanin and specific group, a kilt would have served admirably.
    A quick crowd funding for the legal fee’s and you would have been rolling in free money….or not, either way the HRC could have been mercilessly ridiculed out of existence.

    • ianl says:

      > … the HRC could have been mercilessly ridiculed out of existence

      I used to think that – a humourless and wowserish bureaucracy could be ridiculed into changing. I still think that laughing at them is the best response.

      But I’ve come to realise that authority, while not much liking being ridiculed, will put up with being lampooned as long as in the end it WINS. The recent census/ABS imbroglio serves as a current example – the entire country and beyond laughed and laughed, but the ABS persisted in asserting they would fine us because their incompetence had made our task impossible within the required timeframe. Monty Python could not better that.

      • Rob Brighton says:

        You are likely correct Ian, still cant hurt to hope.
        Unless our political masters start listening and acting in accordance with our wishes laughter is the only response left. That and our vote, a point I have made to the local federal member.
        Not that he cares, he has the better part of his term to run, plenty of time to demonise and finger wag his way back for another term at the trough.

  2. Lacebug says:

    Good luck with that boyo

  3. en passant says:

    Rob,
    I am a Lowland Scot and not a member of those barbarian tribes north of the Highland Line, so I find your reference to ‘kilts’ offensive. Contact me for bank account details as to where you can deposit the $250,000 that would make me feel better …
    Erk, delete “Lowland Scot” as that may be a form of racism.
    Umm, could you forget the inadvertent reference to “those barbarian tribes” as it is just a matter of cultural relativity that they often used to raid, murder and pillage their Lowland neighbours.
    Look, can we skip the intermediate step and just send me the $250,000? Consider it a precutionary principle payment just in case you mat have offended me.
    Now to trawl through the Welsh gits article for further offences. Shouldn’t be too hard as the say the Welsh not only pray on their knees, but they also prey on their neighbours …
    The possibilities are endless and I see a new career ahead for the permanently offended moi (though the market may have been cornered already).

  4. ianl says:

    The HRC has apparently demanded that Bill Leak provide evidence within two weeks to show he was not being racist in drawing that cartoon. (It is also reported that Triggsie has requested The Australian to decease from reporting her daily developments – obviously she is feeling the angst of being continually laughed at, which gives me some satisfaction).

    BUT – Leak has to prove he’s NOT guilty ? The HRC does not have to prove he IS guilty ? This reversal of the assumption of innocence is well luvved by the luvvies, it shows up everywhere they drop one.

    So where are the bewigged, righteous QC’s, SC’s and very honourable Judges, marching 5 abreast with fervent, burning indignation along the Canberra Circle, protesting at the unscrupulous dumping of a hard-won common law pillar of the earth ? What’s that you say … they’re in the counting house ?

    [Yes, we do know the HRC is not a Court of Law, but a Court of Kangaroos]

  5. Rob Brighton says:

    I probably should read up on the procedures they use at the HRC but who can face that?
    Seems that someone has got an atom of sense over there as the case against the young blokes has been tossed out.
    Two questions, perhaps someone can help me.
    Those that gave the HRC $5K at the beginning….do they get their money back? and secondly who paid for the costs to defend the young blokes who defended themselves?
    I have a uninformed suspicion that like employment law you cant get costs awarded.

    I hope the Australian ignores the old cow. She needs to hear unrestrained laughter at her every utterance.

  6. mags of Queensland says:

    Thanks should go to the lawyer and barrister who defended these young men free of charge. If justice were to be served,however, the HRC and the claimant should pay the court costs. QUT should also be hauled over the coals for not nipping this i the bud from the beginning. Pandering to these whining ‘offended” over trivia has become a magnet for those who want their 15 minutes of fame. Like the woman who claims that Bill Leak’s cartoon shows racial hatred. Why is every criticism of anything aboriginal deemed to be hatred?

    A very succinct description of the timeline of the complaint against the QUT students is to be seen on Andrew Bolt’s blog. It shows in graphic detail just how outrageous the behaviour of the HRC and Madam Triggs in particular has been and still is.

  7. Meniscus says:

    It’s simply incredible that the average salary at the HRC is over $140K:

    https://themarcusreview.com/2016/10/26/they-get-how-much-at-the-human-rights-commission/

  8. padraic says:

    All this kerfuffle trigg ered (sorry, I couldn’t hold back)by the Leak cartoon has apparently impacted on the progressive media. I read the other day in a Fairfax publication in an article on the ABC that the “programming team, however, had already been working to create new dramas, comedies and factual shows that aren’t about – or driven by – straight white guys.” Apart from being inaccurate – ABC programming appears to have had little to do with straight white guys for some years now – this statement was not qualified by “old anglo-celtic” which in the past was de rigeur in such articles. Perhaps 18C is blowing back in their faces. A great article, but did the author have tongue in cheek and was punning when he spelt the Welsh national emblem “leak” instead of “leek”?

  9. [email protected] says:

    To me it seems that18c and many other social engineering bits of legislation were only ever introduced to give unproductive lawyers a well paying job. Thus far it has been very ‘successful’, that is if you think Gillian Triggs is gainfully employed. However like most government created ‘jobs’ the end result was/is always far from what was intended and it is now a very expensive and harmful disaster. It’s time to axe the HRC and 18c before civil society is crushed by the impossibility of trying to ‘obey’ such hypocritical laws and restrictions.